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Shireen Abu Akleh: Israel won't investigate killing of Palestinian-American journalist

Israeli army says there is 'no suspicion of a criminal act' that would require investigating soldiers as suspects
Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed last week in Jenin, wearing a press vest while reporting for the Al Jazeera news channel (Courtesy: Al Jazeera)
Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed last week in Jenin, wearing a press vest while reporting for the Al Jazeera news channel (Courtesy: Al Jazeera)

Israeli military forces are not going to investigate the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead by Israeli forces while covering a raid in Jenin last week.

Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the Israeli army's Military Police Criminal Investigation Division, known by its Hebrew acronym, Metzah, is not planning to probe the killing of the 51-year-old journalist, claiming that there was no suspicion of a criminal act.

"The main reason for this is that there is no suspicion of a criminal act: the soldiers testified that they did not see the journalist at all and aimed their fire at gunmen, who were indeed nearby," Haaretz reported.

Abu Akleh, a journalist with Al Jazeera, was fatally shot on 11 May while covering a raid of the Jenin refugee camp by an Israeli commando unit, the Duvdevan.

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Following widespread condemnation of the killing by Palestinian, American and European figures, Israeli forces issued the results of an interim investigation, saying they could not determine who fired the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.

The Israeli report also suggested Palestinian shooters could have been responsible.

But a visual investigation by Middle East Eye into Abu Akleh's death, which established the location of a number of key events on Wednesday, as well as testimony from witnesses, cast doubt on Israeli claims that the veteran journalist could have been killed by Palestinian fire.

And eyewitnesses said there was no crossfire at the time, and that Palestinian gunmen were far from the team of six journalists.

Unnamed Israeli officials have also told journalists that soldiers 150 metres from Abu Akleh repeatedly fired around the time of her death.

'Incapable or unwilling'

The Israeli forces rarely investigate incidents in which Palestinian militants are killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but have occasionally investigated the shooting and killing of Palestinian civilians, despite pressure from far-right parties.

In the case of Abu Akleh, such an investigation would require the Israeli army to question soldiers as potential suspects in a criminal probe, which would rile up the military and generate strong opposition. 

Yesh Din, an Israel NGO, said army law enforcement mechanisms "no longer bother to give the appearance of investigating", adding that:

"Eighty percent of the complaints that are submitted are dismissed without a criminal investigation.

It appears that politics and image count for more than truth and justice. An army that investigates itself in such a serious case as this again proves that it is incapable or unwilling to undertake a fair and effective probe."

Last week, the Palestinian Authority rejected holding a joint probe into the death with Israel, or handing over the fatal bullet for forensic examination, saying Israel was "completely responsible" for the journalist's death.

Israeli forces cracked down on Abu Akleh's funeral on Friday, assaulting mourners carrying her coffin as they left a hospital for a church in Jerusalem's Old City.

A small group of politicians have called on the US government to investigate Abu Akleh's killing at the hands of Israeli soldiers, urging the Biden administration to restrict military aid to Israel over the tragedy.